Contributor: Gregg Wright
The first episode of “Game of Thrones” delivered a pretty sizable information dump, giving us the run-down on all the major characters and the setting. In this installment, now that everything has been set in place, the show begins expanding on the characters and how they all relate to each other. The situations breed conflict from which new information is mined. And when the episode ends, it’s clear that there’s a lot left for us to learn.
Instead of starting out with Bran’s fall and working from there, the episode chooses to first give us an update on Princess Daenerys’ situation. This storyline is probably my least favorite of the episode, but it isn’t without merit. The majority of it deals with Daenerys deciding to take some level of control of her situation, though I don’t really see how it’s for the better. Ian Glein’s Jorah Mormont is becoming an interesting presence. I think when trouble hits, he’s going to be one that Daenerys can count on as an ally.
There’s surprisingly little attention paid to the fallout of Bran’s fall. We discover that Bran may yet live almost in passing, during a mealtime conversation. For their part, Jaime and Cersei do an excellent job of not appearing worried about Bran talking. I’d almost forgotten about that danger until that fire scene. All of the sudden, the assassin was there. Great scene. Probably my favorite of the episode. For a moment, I was sure that either Catelyn Stark or Bran Stark were done for. But Catelyn is a remarkably tough woman. And then that Dire Wolf attack came out of nowhere. These Dire Wolves seem to be just about the best pet one could possibly have. And this episode goes a long way toward making me wonder if there’s something more to them than meets the eye. (Did Bran’s Dire Wolf save his life when he fell?) The sympathy for the Dire Wolves is an important thread in the episode, because it factors heavily into the hatred we develop for certain members of House Lannister.
One easy way to make audiences upset is to kill a dog. An audience will watch all manner of horrible things happen to men, women, and children. But often enough, killing off the dog is what really upsets them. One could argue that we’ve become much more desensitized to the killing of people. But I think people just see dogs (or other animals) as somehow more innocent than people. An audience can feel justified in judging a person for their on-screen actions, for their secret motivations. But dogs seem to only want simple things, like companionship and the approval of a master. Soldiers returning from World War II found that they were no longer able to hunt wildlife. They could understand killing Nazis, but could no longer bring themselves to kill an animal that had done nothing wrong. I might disagree that people are somehow different from animals in this regard, but I can at least understand why someone would feel this way.
To put it simply, things are beginning to heat up between House Stark and House Lannister. Cersei and Jaime’s treachery is a big enough problem, but then the despicable Prince Joffrey opens up a whole other can of worms. And poor Eddard Stark is forced to struggle between loyalty to his family/his heritage and his loyalty to his king. One of the things I loved about the episode is Eddard’s reaction to the king’s order to kill one of the Dire Wolves. I don’t know if this is a common cliche or not, but for some reason I always expect the children to be the only ones sympathetic to the animals, while the adults are cold and heartless toward them. But thankfully, this does not apply here.
Eddard knows that his kids are probably right about what happened, and he knows that these Lannisters are no good. Maybe the fact that he coldly lopped off that ranger’s head in the pilot was what made me think he wouldn’t give a damn about the wolves. But he obviously did, and resents that one needs to be killed for such petty reasons. I’m sure that readers of the books know where this is all heading. (And I’d bet that someone at this point in the story in the books probably has a lot more information than I have.)
But I get the strong feeling that this situation is a precursor to a major clash between House Stark and House Lannister. Eddard is going to have to draw the line somewhere, and it’s pretty clear which side he’ll take. Catelyn has already figured out that Bran saw something damning, and suspects the Lannisters. So now that Bran is awake, I think Eddard and Catelyn will be well-primed to believe him, if he chooses to talk about what he saw.
I was slightly less enthralled by this episode than the pilot. But there’s still every indication that this show is going to be an amazing ride. The writing and acting are still excellent. Eddard is headed to King’s Landing. Jon Snow and the awesome Tyrion Lannister are headed for The Wall, where they expect to find nothing extraordinary or awesome (which means that they will). Again, the only real weak point continues to be the music. This show deserves so much better than this bland hack job of a score. But even though I place a much greater importance on the musical score than most people (I think), the writing and acting are undeniably more important. And thankfully, in that regard, “Game of Thrones” has yet to disappoint.